By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
“School should not be a place where we are discussing where we should duck and cover!” stated a youth speaker at the “Never Again” youth-led demonstration on the Plaza on Friday April 20th.
Another speaker declared, “We need to reconnect in our community and look hard at the narrative we are repeating. Nineteen years ago the Columbine murders occurred, and we are still just talking about it!”
During the two months of the Art of Nonviolence Exhibit at the TCA, visitors were asked to respond in writing to the question “What is the path to nonviolence?” Out of the 173 responses, the most passionate involved gun regulations and bullying. On both of these topics, they asked for adult partnerships to change some things.
“I got bullied for 5 years and when I told a teacher, she said “Oh that’s just how girls are. Bullying should be taken seriously.”
“Bullies are food, not friends.”
“Do not be a victim.”
“The principal and teachers and counselors should listen when a child says they are being bullied. That is the first step to getting it to stop.”
“Don’t be a bystander. Put an end to bullying.”
“I’m a victim of bullying. They did nothing about it. Do something about it! Be the change!”
“Automatic and semi-automatic guns are NOT used in hunting and have no place in our world today.”
“No more weapons in schools, period. NO exceptions.”
“Ban assault weapons.” (5 times)
“Make it more difficult to buy and get hold of guns.”
“Background checks before buying a gun. Guns should be treated like divers’ licenses. You need a class and a test.”
Both the visitors who responded in the art gallery and the speakers in the Plaza emphasized that we need serious conversations that respect differences but commit to not alarming people with different views. If gun owners are worried that any legal limitations on purchasing will lead to a complete gun ban, they will not be able to talk about compromises. How do we learn to lower fears and find the paths of common understanding? What we see at the national level is an utter inability to find compromise. Can we be the change that starts here?
There are places for personal conversations and also actions that can be taken on a broader basis, such as companies making changes in their policies to respond to the public’s support of banning assault weapon access. Here, religious communities and service organizations and volunteer groups need to have conversations. People need to take advantage of training and presentations and resources about finding common ground.
We do need to listen closely to each other—whether you are hearing that a child is being bullied or that a gun owner is frightened of losing his rights. As a nation we have beautiful documents that respect freedom but also protect community. Our community needs to assure youth and families that shootings in schools will not be the norm. We can link with our youth who are declaring, “We will make a difference!”
Nonviolence Works has the largest staff of licensed and credentialed counselors in northern New Mexico. Contact us at www.nonvolenceworks.us or 575-758-4297.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org